Questions & Answers

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My oncologist mentioned a clinical trial to me, but I have just been diagnosed and haven't had any treatment yet.  I thought clinical trials were the last option when other treatments don't work.


That is one of the most common misconceptions people have about clinical trials. It’s true that we often offer clinical trials when the standard of care hasn’t resulted in clinical benefit, or when there’s no standard of care and the therapies being used aren’t yielding good results. However, it’s often appropriate to explore clinical trial options earlier in your course of treatment, even when you still have other standard therapies available.

For example, some patients may be eligible for a clinical trial in which we try to improve a standard drug by adding a new agent to it. In this way, it’s possible to receive the standard of care with the hope that the addition of a novel strategy will result in greater benefit. Others may be able to try a promising new drug and then go back to standard therapies, which are always available if it wasn’t successful.

The GCCA has a Clinical Trial Awareness Program where you will find resources about clinical trials, a printable worksheet to use to discuss clinical trials with your healthcare team, and more.

Clearing Up Myths and Misconceptions About Clinical Trials is a great resource from our friends and colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.




I've heard a lot about integrative health and wellness options.  What is integrative medicine?


Please see the following information from our friends and colleagues at Duke Integrative Medicine and the World Health Organization (WHO).

What is Integrative Medicine? (Source: Duke Integrative Medicine)

Integrative medicine is grounded in the definition of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs, and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health.




I'm a caregiver to my husband.  I feel like I am overwhelmed and not able to take care of my husband, work full time and raise our children.  Can you provide any resources or support?


Please see the following information from our friends and colleagues at the Raymond Foundation:

A Roadmap for Cancer Caregivers

Cancer caregivers face many challenges as they care for their loved ones, and in many cases, juggle work and family responsibilities. Caregivers often report high levels of stress, emotional and physical fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, and depression. The 'Cancer Caregiver Action Plan' provides real-world support and resources for cancer caregivers with practical advice from fellow caregivers on managing caregiving responsibilities while also practicing self-care.

In addition to the Cancer Caregiver Action Plan, the Raymond Foundation provides patient and caregiver reported outcomes research via video interviews and published journal articles.




I'm a young adult diagnosed with rectal cancer at age 25.  Are there programs for me to share my experiences with other young adults?


Please see the following information from our friends and colleagues at Bowel Cancer UK:

Never Too Young: the campaign Created in 2013, the Never Too Young campaign is giving younger patients a voice and changing clinical practice and policy to stop people dying of bowel cancer (colorectal cancer) under 50.

Never Too Young is now a global campaign and has been adopted by organizations in Canada, Australia, USA, and New Zealand.




My oncologist mentioned biomarker testing to me.  Biomarkers seem pretty confusing and I'm not sure where to find easy-to-understand information.


Please see the following information developed by our Global Colon Cancer Association team:

KNOW YOUR BIOMARKER #knowyourbiomarker

The Know Your Biomarker program provides patient-friendly information, patient stories and videos, and fact sheets, questions to ask your healthcare team, and treatment options available for free downloads.

Biomarker testing can provide your medical team with vital personalized information, which can be used to:

  • Gain a better understanding of the prognosis of your cancer diagnosis
  • Help predict how your cancer may or may not respond to a particular treatment
  • Guide treatment decisions
  • Anticipate a potential toxic response to treatment
  • Monitor cancer for recurrence




If the original biologic medicine has been out for more than a decade, why should I feel safe taking a brand new biosimilar that doesn’t have the same type of history behind it?


The studies that have been done for biosimilar approval have shown that there are no clinically meaningful differences between the originator and an approved biosimilar.




My doctor wants me to stay on my original biologic, but my insurance company is pushing a switch to the biosimilar. What can I do? And should I be concerned?


If your insurance company is willing to make an exception through an appeals process, then you can stay on your original biologic. But if your insurance company won't pay for your original biologic, do not be concerned, the biosimilar has been found to be as safe and efficacious as the originator.




It sounds like the payers are making all the decisions now. Are doctors concerned that they are no longer going to be able to make treatment decisions?


Yes, but biosimilar substitution is not really the major problem. Many step therapy or fail first regimens require patients to take medications that are not in their best interest first because the insurance company makes more money on a different medication. Sometimes a stable patient's medication is placed on a higher tier or dropped completely from the formulary and they are forced to take a completely different medication than the one that they were on.




Do the physician panelists feel comfortable with the possibility of a patient being switched from one biosimilar to another biosimilar every few months?


Most physicians would not be comfortable with a patient switching among and between originators and different biosimilars every few months. Even the switching studies that have been done tend to be just between a reference/originator product and one biosimilar. There are some states that have passed non-medical switching laws prohibiting the switching of patients to a different medication within a plan year (including reference and biosimilars if the biosimilar has not been given the interchangeable status.) I don't know of any plans that switch every few months.




Are CEA markers affected while the body is adapting to the COVID vaccine?


Tumor markers are not affected by the vaccine. However, it is important to know that the vaccine can cause an immune response, swelling of the axillary lymph nodes, in the arm that received the vaccine. This is important for people that will be having scans including mammograms.

For more information, please visit Coronavirus Vaccines and People with Cancer - National Cancer Institute.